The Passion Fruits

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There Will Be TEA (And Cake, But No Daniel Day-Lewis…)

lemonpoppyseed1So yes, I may have mentioned that Mr. T has family in town. I may also have mentioned that they’re lovely, and that they’re English. And this means that there is tea. Lots and lots of tea. Did I mention that there’s tea? I just want to make sure that you’re getting the full picture… of tea. Whatever the time, place, or occasion, it’s right for tea. And, while I insist on my perversely New England-y habit of drinking my tea iced and unsweetened, I can really get behind this ritualistic pause for beverage and wee nibbles. So, hooray for tea time!

This does mean, however, that the hostess with the mostess must needs have an array of tea-time nibbles on hand. Mr. T has repeatedly tried to use tea time (as in, pausing for tea, not a hardcore lace mitt-and-petits fours throwdown) as an object lesson for small pleasures; he says that tea-times, and the English in general,  demand small, restrained pleasures. This approach, however, is totally foreign to me, having been brought up with the firmly American attitude that “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing”.

Unfortunately for my best intentions toward grandiosity, I’ve spent most of the past week flat on my back recovering from the unceremonious removal of my appendix. Thus I have not been engaging in the excessive bustle of baking you and I might expect. Happily, I am mostly upright at this point and I did forsightfully pop a lemon poppyseed poundcake into the freezer a few weeks ago, so I’ll not be caught with my tea party pants down. I’ll still, I think, need to pop round to Rodman’s for a tin of Cabury’s biscuits (UK spec.) all the same. In any event, our Strategic Marmalade Supplies are running low. And regardless, come hell or high water I WILL be making La Nigella’s Victoria Sponge at some point during their stay. So there.

lemonpoppyseed2Lemon Poppyseed Poundcake
Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Cake Bible
Yield: 1 loaf

3 tbs milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c sifted cake flour
3/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs finely Microplane’d lemon zest
3 tbs poppy seeds
13 tbs unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 6-cup loaf pan by buttering it, lining the bottom with a piece of parchment, buttering again, and flouring.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the milk, eggs, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients (inc. lemon zest and poppy seeds) and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and half of the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixture) and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the cake’s structure.

Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the remaining egg mixture in 2 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.

Scrape the prepared batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cover loosely with buttered foul after 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning.  The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

While the cake the baking, prepare the Lemon Syrup, below.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick all over with a cake tester and brush it with half of the syrup. Cool in the pan for 10 min. Loosen the sides with a spatula and invert onto a greased wire rack. Poke bottom of the cake with the cake tester, brush it with some of the syrup, and reinvert onto a wire rack. Brush remaining syrup on the sides and cool completely before wrapping air-tight. (I often pop the cake into my hand and do the poking and soaking of the bottom and sides all at once… one looses less syrup to the counter that way.) Store 24 hours to give the syrup a chance to distribute evenly.

Lemon Syrup
1/4 c + 2 tbs sugar
1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a small pan over medium heat, combine the sugar and lemon juice and heat just until the sugar’s completely dissolved.

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